A few weeks ago I got an email from a reader, and he had some awesome questions. I thought I’d share them & my answers here on my blog. If you could do me a favor, please leave your thoughts in the comments below! I posted this mainly to spark a conversation.
The questions are from Dan Domino:
“1. If I found a large number of random abandoned domains, which have existing backlinks (anywhere from a small handful of backlinks to a large backlink profile), which were available to register, and I went ahead and registered them and then redirected them to my website, do you think I’m setting myself up to be penalized by Google in the future? Ie…if I did this a few hundred times (I have a very smalll number of backlinks at this point). I realize doing this may only help me if I can find domains w/URLs relating to my keywords.
2. Alternatively – say I took a bunch of abandoned domains, hopefully w/URL’s somewhat keyword related to my site, and put up a quick page relating to my site’s keywords, and then linked to my site. If I did this a few hundred times, do you think Google would notice and penalize me since it seems like this kind of thing would be easy to detect, since at least a good number of them would have to come from the same domain hosting service (even if I diversified across a few different hosting services), with URL owner info set to ‘private,’ etc.”
Here are my answers:
1. A few times is OK, but I wouldn’t recommend “a few hundred times”. Seeing the costs to have a few hundred sites doing this, I just don’t see it being Google-proof (it comes off as manipulative), the best use of these assets (301s lose link power over time), cost effective, or even user friendly (back to the Google part – if they don’t think it’s helpful to users, they won’t like it). If you do have that many link-rich domains, take my advice in answer #2.
2. That’s not as bad, but you have to focus on user friendliness more than anything. Safe is always better than sorry, and Google is getting smarter & smarter each day, so even if you see a few spammers winning right now, it’s just not worthwhile to roll the dice. Here’s what I’d do:
Since the idea I have is a little hard to explain, I’ll show you by creating an example.
Let’s say I found a domain about SEO (seosite.com) that had a ton of links pointing to pages all over the domain. What I would do is set up a few category pages:
The home page (seosite.com) would just be about SEO in general. Find all the links that are pointing to your domain, and 301 each of those pages/posts to the relevant category page. For example, if there are a few links to a post about link prospecting, 301 that to your link building page.
What you need to do next is set up informative articles on each of those category pages. The more content, the better. A good number to aim for is 1,000 words. If you want, outsource the content because its only purpose is for SEO. Instead of adding links only back to your site in the articles, add a few to your other category pages.
What this does is:
1) Makes it more user friendly as opposed to throwing up only one page on the domain and 301ing everything to it (or even 301ing everything on the domain to your homepage).
2) You get more links, because you built 10 different pages.
3) The links are contextual (way better than links that stand alone on a page).
4) Those pages have link power of their own because of internal linking from other category pages.
5) The links pass more relevance (linking the phrase “link building” from a post about link building passes a ton of relevance as opposed to just 301ing it back to your “link building” page).
6) Google doesn’t see this as manipulative (or at least anywhere close to 301ing the whole domain).
Another tip, which sounds much easier, but has less link power, is to instead of 301ing posts/pages to category pages, 301 them to category pages on your own domain. This loses a lot of the benefits above, but if you really do have hundreds of relevant domains, I suggest doing this for the lower quality ones. You should be doing the above strategy every time though for the domains that are aged & full of link juice.
So, what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say!
Chris from Roots Web Solutions wrote something awesome in the comments, so I thought I’d add it here! He claims it’s black hat, but I don’t think it’s that manipulative – I think it’s just plain smart!
Abandoned domains do work and being smart means that you can pick them up before they drop.
GoDaddy (boo!) Auctions allows you to buy domains just before they drop as Hippititimus mentioned [in his comment] many domain resellers massively overprice and even fake the Google Toolbar Pagerank on their domains to boost their value.
In GoDaddy auctions you can easily find PR3-5 Domains with a DMOZ backlink, over 4 years old going for as little as $20-50. Some of these sites sell PR5 domains for $300 +!
If you have the SEOMoz toolbar or similar installed its very easy to check the DA/PA and # of backlinks
You can then rebuild the popular pages using the Wayback Machine http://www.archive.org/web/web.php and now you have control of an authority site for the cost of less than $100???
What do you guys think?